Did law school prepare you for today’s legal marketplace?

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What were you trained to do in law school?

Odds are it’s much different than what you’re currently responsible for on a day-to-day basis.

“Legal knowledge was long the sole requisite for a legal career; now it is a baseline.” – Mark A. Cohen

This article from Mark A. Cohen recently popped back up in my feed, and it’s a great reminder for any lawyer: how you’re trained, what you’re responsible for and how to stay current in today’s legal market.


More than just knowing the law

Being a lawyer is so much more than just knowing the law. Your primary objective is to serve as counsel for clients. If you’re in a firm, “clients” is a simple term to understand. If you’re in-house or in government, your client is your employer.

You MUST know your clients’ businesses. Yes, you’re absolutely responsible for billable hours, but that is your responsibility to your firm. Your clients demand results. If you’re not in tune with their needs, you can’t deliver the results they want. 

This means more than winning a case for them. It means understanding how winning or losing the case impacts their bottom line and reputation in the community – and why settling can be the better option than going to trial – even though you love getting in the courtroom!

This means more than fighting tooth and nail over a minor clause in the contract with opposing counsel and winning on principal.  It means understanding that if you don’t get your contract details hammered out before the end of the quarter, your client stands to lose money and you may be losing a client…

The legal industry is a marketplace

The legal industry is now, more than ever, a marketplace and your clients have choices. They want rapport, a relationship and someone who can see past their legal issues, and can also see how these issues affect their business as a whole: marketing, finance regulation and more. 

“Legal performance is shifting from input–hours and origination– to output– outcomes and results that drive client value.” – Mark A. Cohen

As Cohen suggests, to be a successful lawyer in today’s legal market, you need to augment your legal knowledge (which is the expectation) with “data analytics, business basics, project management, risk management, and ‘people skills’ to cite a few.”

If you know my legal career story, you know I experienced this first hand. Transitioning from knowing the law to understanding all that is required for modern day lawyers can be difficult, and many times it leads to lawyers being unhappy in their careers and some leaving what could be a rewarding career in law.

Know your strengths, grow your skills

To practice the law fully, you need to go beyond the law and grow your skills in business and marketing.

It begins when you know your strengths, can overcome bad habits and tendencies, and then align them with your career goals.  Knowing who you are and why you do what you do gives you personal insight and awareness. Learning and understanding the business behind law – from a lawyer’s perspective and your client’s perspective – will make sure you’re thriving and not simply surviving.

Top tier law schools are moving their curriculum in this direction, and you need to move your career in the same direction to stay relevant.

The legal marketplace is changing and that gives you an opportunity.  Position yourself to get in front of clients you want to represent and you’ll make the most of the opportunities when they arise.


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